This image provides an overview of the territorial behaviour of the two tagged Hen Harriers, Rowan (male) and Sorrel (female) between 1 Oct and 6 Oct 2016.

On fledging from their moorland nests in the Scottish Borders, both birds took time to explore the area around their individual nest sites while they built up their strength, flying and hunting skills. During this period the Harriers would be predating primarily on birds such as meadow pippets, and small mammals.

Stephen Murphy of Natural England, a widely recognised UK expert on Hen Harriers, has advised that it is hard to know exactly what is holding Rowan and Sorrel in their respective areas, but it is not impossible that it is the presence of other Hen Harriers. While Sorrel held close to her chosen foraging area in South Lanarkshire, between 1 and 6 Oct, Rowan flew to the south coast of Kent and explored the area for a while before returning north.

Stephen has advised that it is a recognised phenomenon with Hen Harriers that the females will choose and become loyal to a particular wintering area while the males will tend to range and travel widely, early in their lives.

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This image provides a more detailed view of Rowan’s recent travels to the south. It needs to be borne in mind when viewing these images that the long straight lines do not necessarily represent single flight paths.

The satellite tags are pre-set to operate on an approximate 10:48 basis (ten hours transmitting and 48 hours recharging). In effect, the long lines represent the recharging periods, logically joining together separate periods of transmission when a multi-day visualisation, as above, is employed.

With respect to this particular jaunt, Stephen Murphy commented, “Rowan is demonstrating we definitely live and learn when it comes to Hen Harrier dispersal, he is the first bird we have tracked to Kent. Will he cross the channel? Who knows? – but 3 out of the 4 birds we have tracked south of Birmingham have headed over to France or Spain.”

What is intriguing is that Rowan did not continue on a Grand Tour of the south of England and onwards into France, but chose to return to the area he had apparently settled on in South Lakeland.

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This image showss Sorrel’s foraging routes over the period 1 to 6 Oct 2016 while Rowan was off on his ‘Run to the South’.

Stephen Murphy has advised that, from observing a number of tracked Hen Harriers, whilst the males start to move considerable distances from an early age, the females spend their time establishing a distinct winter range.

Sorrel may not be embarking on a tour of the UK but she is not being lazy, spending a considerable amount of time on the wing.

To view a larger version, click image.